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Full text of "ANCIENT STREET ARCHITECTURE IN KILKENNY"

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L 1) H O U S E S HIGH ST R H E T 




41 
ANCIENT STREET ARCHITECTURE IN KILKENNY. 

BY THE REV. J. GRAVES. 

[Read at the Meeting of July 4^.] 



The vivid realization of the past forms one of the keenest enjoyments 
of the antiquarian. To reconstruct from authentic data the dilapidated 
monastic pile, and call up before the mind's eye the manners and every- 
day occupations of its quondam inmates ; to people the mouldering 
fortalice with its old inhabitants — the feudal lord in his panoply of 
plate and mail, or rich weeds of peace ; the stately dame with her 
quaint horned head-dress, and ample kirtle, and the armed retainer 
ever ready for the foray or the fight ; — to trace the progress of the 
villa or town of the Pale, with its stal worth burgesses, its boni homines, 
as the old law Latin hath it, its good men and true, half traders, h&lf 
soldiers, ready to drive a profitable trade with the Lombard or Flemish 
merchant in wines and spices, embroidered silks and rich inlaid 
armour, and to exchange with the English trader for his " cloth of 
assize" the coarser products of the native loom ; and, again, just as 
ready to don the steel cap, and quilted jack, and armed with the long 
pike, or the stout yew bow, to march forth against some "Irish 
enemy," whose light armed kerns, or more formidable gallowglasses, 
having burst through the " marches," were devastating the Pale with 
fire and sword — even as the stalworth burgesses of Kilkenny headed 
by their valiant sovereign, John Croker, boldly left the shelter of 
their walls, and on the day of the exaltation of the holy cross in the 
year of grace 1407, performed good service against the Irish foe and 
English rebels at Callan, in memory of which a cross once reared its 
sculptured arms in our city, now, together with our noble market-cross, 
utterly destroyed. — Such are amongst the most keenly enjoyed pleasures 
of the antiquary — a pleasure lately afforded me while engaged in 
tracing out the peculiarities of construction and style which belonged to 
the domestic architecture of Kilkenny about the latter end of the 
sixteenth, and the commencement of the seventeenth century. I may 
not, it is true, be able to communicate that pleasure to others ; but at 
the same time I feel the importance of placing on record some notice 
of buildings which are rapidly disappearing from amongst us. 

That the earlier domestic buildings of Kilkenny, as of most other 
cities in this and the neighbouring island, consisted of framed oak 
timber, there can be little doubt; still, from the abundance of excellent 
building stone in the neighbourhood of Kilkenny, and the facility with 
which it must always have been procured, it is probable that there 
were here exceptions to the prevailing custom, and that many domestic 
structures of stone existed from an early period in our city. A manu- 
6 



42 

script, descriptive of Kilkenny, written at the commencement of the 
seventeenth century, and preserved in the Library of the British 
Museum (Cod. Clar. EI. 4796), affords some curious and interesting 
information on the subject. After alluding to the facility which the 
water carriage of the river Nore afforded for the transmission of stone 
and timber — a statement which is confirmed by a contemporary By-law 
of the Corporation of Irishtown, still existing amongst the town 
records, and which regulates the admission of timber at the " Slype" 
Gate, near the present Green's Bridge ; the writer of the manuscript 
states, that oak timber of the largest dimensions was procurable in 
abundance from woods which existed chiefly to the northward of the 
city : whilst there were two quarries, one to the east, abounding in 
variegated marbles ; and another more to the northward, which pro- 
duced a marble not well adapted to receive a polish, but at the same 
time affording most excellent material for architectural purposes. And 
there was this difference, he states, between the marbles of the two 
quarries, namely, that the eastern marble, even when polished, was 
subject to imbibe damp in wet weather, or even when rain was threat- 
ening, whereas the other stone, although unpolished, did not exhibit 
similar phenomena even when exposed to the same atmosphere. The 
most cursory observer must here recognise the peculiarities of the two 
quarries, which to the present day afford us our chief supply of build- 
ing stone — namely, the Black-quarry, to the south-east, and those beds 
of limestone lying to the north-west of the town, from which latter the 
excellent material used in the new Koman Catholic Cathedral has been 
procured, and by contrasting, on a damp day, the stone used in the 
Castle (supplied from the Black-quarry) with the material employed in 
the former building, one must be struck with the accuracy of observa- 
tion evinced by the unknown author of the manuscript I have quoted. 
" Cum itaque/' proceeds our authority in his twelfth section, "fabri- 
candi materies tarn fossilis quam caedua hie affatim suppetat, hinc est 
quod incolse hujus civitatis, prse aliis compluribus hujus regni homini- 
bus, studeant sedificiis fere amplioribus et nitidioribus e marmore exci- 
tandis." What makes this statement the more valuable is, that the 
writer lived at a period when the Ancient Street Architecture of 
Kilkenny must have been intact. Whilst enough even yet remains to 
show that his assertions are not overdrawn. 

The earliest existing specimen of a domestic building which we pos- 
sess is that fragment of the original episcopal mansion given by Geofry 
Saint Leger (who died in 1287,) as a collegiate residence for the Vicars 
Chorals of the Cathedral. Of this building unfortunately but little re- 
mains. Of theNew Court, "Nova Curia/' erected by Eichard de Ledrede, 
the year of whose death was 1360, a considerable portion is incorporated 
in the present Palace, but its distinctive features have been obliterated 
by successive alterations. The early timber houses of Kilkenny have 
all disappeared, but I am happy to say that it is peculiarly rich in do- 



43 

mestic edifices of stone, dating from the latter end of the sixteenth and 
commencement of the seventeenth centuries. There are few, I am sure, 
who have not been struck by the picturesque gables and cut stone chim- 
neys of the old mansion, in High-street which stands opposite the end 
of Walkin-street. Although divided at present into several tenements, 
yet the first floor retains much of its original wainscot, together with 
some fine examples of cut stone chimneypieces. One of its picturesque 
chimneys has however lately been taken down. 

In the front wall is inserted, although not in its original place, a slab 
of limestone sculptured with an achievement of ten quarterings together 
with the letters j$* £♦ and the following inscription : — 

*£enrg ©See of fttifcent Gentleman & prance* Crtep W tmfe'$ armeieu 

The upper portion of this stone is unfortunately broken off, and lost, 
but I have been informed that it bore the date of 1580. The accom- 
panying Lithograph gives a view of this fine old house. The head of 
the family, Sir Richard Shee, founded and amply endowed an Hospital 
in the city of Kilkenny, which still stands unaltered, although in a most 
dilapidated condition ; the funds dedicated to its support having been 
diverted from the use to which the founder devoted them. The Hospital 
stands in Rose Inn-street, one gable fronting that thoroughfare and 
the other extending back to Mary's lane ; both fronts are decorated with 
the arms of the founder, which until these few years back were richly 
blazoned in their proper colours. Underneath the arms in front is an 
inscription stating that the founder was Sir Eichard Shee, whilst that on 
the back is more full and runs as follows :— 

3[n$ignia Etfcami ©See IBUifcennienisi* armtgert et spargarete ©Jerlocfc 
urorte Sttug qui Joe >&eneHocf)ittm fieri fecerunu 1582. 

The upper floor is carried throughout the full extent of the building 
and is fitted up with an altar. 

Immediately opposite Henry Slice's House in High-street, and at the 
corner of Walkin-street, stand some extensive premises, which must once 
have been a fine example of the same style of architecture. The exterior 
however has been much transformed, and it is only in the rear that its 
characteristic features are observable, as appears by the accompanying 
Lithograph which was taken, while the house at present used as a sale- 
room by Mr. Douglas, was in course of erection. There is a fine window, 
divided by mullions into eight lights, at the rear, and some good examples 
of cut stone chimney-pieces within ; the front toward Walkin-street still 
preserves its original parapet and stone gourgoyles or spouts. I can 
learn nothing farther of its history than that it is commonly known as 
" Tunnadine's Holding." The cut stone chimneys surmounting the 
house occupied by Mr. T. Shearman, point out another building of this 
period, which the inscription under the escutcheon on the front, proves 
to be the residence of the old Kilkenny family of Archer. It may not 



44 

be generally known that the tenant is bound by his lease, under a heavy 
penalty, to preserve the said chimneys and escutcheon of arms intact — 
an example worthy to be followed by other proprietors. The date on 
the escutcheon is 1582, and the name of the builder is there given as 
Martin Archer. 

Another old house, the residence of the Langton family, is also still 
in existence, extending from the north side of the Butter-slip, nearly to 
the Tholsel. The Langtons, like most of the burgher families of Kil- 
kenny, were originally of English extraction, being "of the house of Low 
in Lancashire" (MS. genealogy of the Langton family, penes Mr. M. 
Comerford, Kilkenny). Nicholas Langton was born in 1562, accord- 
ing to the same authority, and " was a wise, prudent, magnanimous, 
and hospitable man ;" he was chiefly instrumental in procuring the 
great charter, which erected Kilkenny into a city, from James I., was 
elected Mayor the year after, and died "in a good old age," anno 1632. 
" He purchased," says the genealogy, " and built the stone house near 
the market cross in Kilkenny." The escutcheon of arms which for- 
merly adorned the front of this house is now removed, and built into a 
wall at the rere ; it bears the following inscription : — 

3jn$ig;ttta Bfcjoiaet JLangton ai&ermatu ftitutatte I&tifcemu'ae qui fjoc 
seUfficium construxtt. 1609. 

Langton's house is now divided into several tenements, and preserves 
its original features alone at the rere, in which direction it extends very 
nearly to King-street. The front is now modernized, but James Robert- 
son, Esq., of Rose Hill, possesses an old but excellent drawing, which not 
only gives a very interesting view of the market cross, as it stood before 
its demolition in 1771, but also shews Langton' s house with the usual 
gable to the front, surmounted by its chimney. This drawing also ex- 
hibits another feature to which I particularly wish to call attention, 
namely, an arcade, or open row of arches, on the ground floor of Lang- 
ton's house, of which the arched entrance to the Butter-slip is the only 
one now apparent.* Having heard from many old inhabitants that this 
covered way was within memory continued on both sides of the present 
Tholsel by a wooden pent-house, it struck me that anciently a con- 
trivance of this nature was universal in Kilkenny, and this idea of mine 
has received fresh confirmation within these few days by the discovery 
of a similar row of arches existing in the street-elevation of the old house 
in Coal-market, erected by John Rothe and Rosa Archer, his wife. The 
entrance archway alone was visible until within a few days past, when the 
old dashing having been removed, the imposts, piers, and arch stones of 
four other similar arches were exposed to view. Having taken a sketch 
and measurements, I am enabled to supply a lithograph of the archway 

* Some alterations consequent in the erection of a new shop-front have since 
exposed to view the remains of this arcade. 



45 

as it then appeared. A projecting bay-window has been removed within 
my own memory, and the corbel on which it rested is still to be seen. 
The arms over the entrance are those of the Eothes, an ancient and 
opulent mercantile family of note in Kilkenny, of which the celebrated 
David Eothe was a member. David Eothe was Eoman Catholic Bishop 
of Ossory during a considerable portion of the first half of the seven- 
teenth century. He was born in 1572, but of his early life, up to the 
period of his consecration, I know nothing. The supplement to Burke's 
Hib. Dominicana, p. 869, states that he was made Bishop of Ossory 
in 1618 ; and a manuscript preserved in the library of Trinity College, 
Dublin (P. iii. 8,) to which, by a memorandum in Archbishop Usher's 
handwriting, the date, 1618, is assigned, and which was printed in the 
Catholic Directory for 1841, p. 366, gives the following hitherto 
unobserved notice of him — " In primis, one David Eothe, titular Bishop 
of Ossory, keepeth for the most parte with his brother Edward Eothe 
merchant, when he is in the cittie, and when he is abroad with the Lo. 
Vicount Mountgarret at Balline." This Edward Eothe appears to be 
the " Edward Eothe alderman/' who is mentioned in an Inquisition 
of 1640, as having been in his lifetime seized of several houses and lands 
in the city and county of Kilkenny, and who died in 1622. John 
Eothe Eitz Piers was the builder of the family residence at present 
under consideration, as appears by an inscription to the following effect: — 

15. % &. 94. 
Jnaffgnfa Jojannfoi ftotlje spercatorte ftttf Petri jFit? lofjannte. 

This building exhibits a most interesting, and nearly perfect 
example of the urban architecture of the period, affording ample 
accommodation to the opulent merchant's family, his apprentices and 
servants, together with storage for his goods. The front elevation of 
the house presents a gable in the centre, crowned by an ornamental 
chimney, and flanked by a parapet running along the whole front at 
each side, with small pinnacles at the angles; a bay window, corbeled out 
from the wall, formerly existed in the first floor, as already observed ; 
the other original windows have been removed. The plan consists of 
two court-yards surrounded by buildings. In front, an archway gives 
access to the first court-yard ; and from this again passage is obtained 
by a smaller archway to the inner court, also formerly enclosed by 
buildings, some of which are now removed. Erom this court there was 
a way of egress through a large gateway into the lane now called New 
Building Lane, and it also contains a well, covered by a pedimented roof, 
which has been judiciously repaired by the exertions of the late Dr. 
Scott. On the pediment of the well, (which having been cleared 
out in the year 1846, was found to be of considerable depth, and 
square form, faced with masonry) is carved the following date and 
inscription : — 



4tf 

1604 

flDrate pro atumatm* 3loSanni$ laotje mercatorti* & ujrort* efusf ffiLoiSae 

arcfier qui puteum June & |jec se&tffria fieri fecetunt* 

In the internal arrangements of the house there are no party walls 
used ; each floor runs the whole extent of the building, and, resting as 
it does on massive oak beams, is well calculated to support the several 
internal partitions, which are invariably of oak timber. In the principal 
rooms capacious chimney-pieces of polished Kilkenny marble canopy 
the ample hearths. The rooms were, and in some instances still are, 
wainscotted with pannelled oak — indeed no other description of timber 
was originally used throughout the entire structure-. — The mode of forming 
the partitions is as follows : — Strong oak studs, framed to cross pieces 
at stated intervals, having rough-hewn oak pannels rabbeted into them, 
formed the centre or core of the partition, and reached from floor to 
ceiling ; over these in the principal rooms, was laid a pannelled and 
moulded oak wainscot, with a cornice of ornamented work running 
round the top — this wainscot reached to within two feet of the ceiling, 
and the interval was no doubt originally occupied by ornamental stucco 
work, examples of which may still be seen in Carrick Castle, one of the 
finest, (if not the finest,) of the Elizabethan houses now remaining in 
Ireland. 

There are many other old houses, or portions of houses, of the same 
date as the examples last mentioned, still existing in Kilkenny ; as for 
instance, that near Jenkins' pump ; the residence of the late J. Ryan, 
Esq. in King-street ; the old house next the National Bank in Coal- 
market, commonly but erroneously termed the parliament house of 
Kilkenny, &c. but they do not preserve much of their original features. 
Two old nouses which stood in High-street, at the end of James'-street, 
have been lately taken down, and in the course of demolition, the arches 
in the party- walls, which served to continue the arcade along the street 
became apparent, and the same feature presented itself in the party- 
wall of another old house occupied by Mr. Cody opposite the National 
Bank, when the house next it was removed for the purpose of rebuilding. 

Eroin the foregoing data I think we may safely form an idea of the 
appearance which Kilkenny presented in the reigns of Elizabeth and 
the first James, and for many years after. Peaked gables crowned by 
carved stone chimneys of varying height, exhibited their picturesque 
outline against the sky— projecting bay windows, here and there jutted 
out over the thoroughfare, affording advantageous points of view to the 
fair city dame or damsel, as the warlike cavalcade, gay with glittering 
armour and fluttering pennon rode past, or the gorgeous ecclesiastical 
procession with cross and banner paced slowly along the streets — or the 
city proudly displayed the ingenuity and opulence of her various guilds 
in the curiously devised, and expensive pageant, designed to welcome 
the peaceful entry of Ormonde's Earls or Dukes — or when the corpo- 



47 

ration caused the religious mysteries of the day to be acted on the High 
Street near the market cross, at the feast of Corpus Christi. Ar- 
cades of massive stone arches, or pent-houses of timber, ran along the 
streets below in picturesque irregularity. Here the merchant displayed 
his wares secure from the action of the weather, for then there were no 
shop windows ; and the thrifty housewife on her shopping expeditions 
had no need to wade along mud-covered footways — the penthouses 
and arcades, made continuous by the archways in the party walls 
of each house, affording a covered walk, as may be seen at the 
present day in Chester, and some other old English towns. I 
am not indeed hardy enough to uphold that our modern houses may 
not be more comfortable, according to our present notions of comfort ; 
but I think it can fearlessly be asserted, that in some things there has 
been a sad falling off. The oriel windows, high pitched gables, and 
elegantly formed cut stone chimneys of 1589 ; and the covered arcades 
extending along the streets, may easily bear away the palm from the 
stiff rectangular boxes, and mud deluged foot- ways of 1849. 



ANCIENT CORPORATION BY-LAWS. 

BY THE REV. J. GRAVES. 

[Read at the Meeting of July 4<lh. 



The discoveries made in the tombs and temples of Egypt go far to 
prove, that several of our so called modern inventions were known to 
that wonderful people many centuries before the Christian Era, and so 
in like manner my searches amongst the records of our corporation have 
gone very far to prove that the by-laws and regulations made by Town 
Councils, and corporate authorities in our enlightened days, and which 
are supposed to embody all the wisdom of modern law makers, and 
guardians of the health of towns, are but counterparts of similar regu- 
lations, which date from what we, in our self glorifying way, are wont 
to call the " dark ages/ 7 Of this I now proceed to give the proof : and 
I should premise that what I am now about to lay before the meeting, 
is but a very small portion of what might be adduced ; indeed I should 
rather say that it is selected at random from the first pages of an ancient 
MS. book in the keeping of the Town Clerk, which I shall call the 
" Liber Primus! 3 These bye laws were composed in the Latin peculiar 
to the time ; w r hich, being scarcely intelligible to the classical scholar, 
from the barbarisms abounding therein, I shall translate. And first, to